On March 12, 2007 Governor Bill Ritter signed a landmark bill to protect Colorado water quality. Governor Ritter noted the importance of the bill to Colorado: “We as a state need to do all we can to protect this precious resource,” Governor Ritter noted. “Water quality and quantity should be viewed together.”
House Bill 1132 will, for the first time, allow water court judges to consider environmental impacts and water quality along with water quantity when making decisions in substantial and permanent changes of water rights. It allows water judges to reject applications to remove 1,000 acre-feet (enough for about 3,000 households) or more from a river if the removal would be environmentally harmful to the river or downstream users.
Water is a very political topic in an arid state like Colorado. Until now, Colorado courts have focused on quantity of water, leaving quality concerns to the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. “This small measure represents a big step in the right direction,” said Clean Water Advocate Stephanie Thomas.
“This bill has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations,” Representative Buffie McFadyen, the bill’s sponsor, said. The bill lost by one vote last year.
HB 1132 avoided the same fate this year through small drafting changes that garnered support from environmentalists, the agriculture community, water-conservancy districts, and municipalities throughout the state. “The coalition of people supporting this bill is unprecedented and wide-ranging. It represents a three-year effort and many negotiations,” said Thomas.